The status quo in pastoral management and fertilisation may be all you have been told, but there seems to be quite a few folk who are looking for something more productive and sustainable.
Around 200 people from all over the country turned up in Taupo recently for a day at the Great Lakes Centre with Arden Andersen who was in New Zealand from the US to talk about current farming practices and how these are steadily making things worse for our soils, our stock, and our health.
Arden has a PhD in biophysics, is a clinical doctor and public health expert, and an internationally-renowned agricultural consultant, which gives him a pretty broad viewpoint.
It was the so-called ‘green revolution’ of the early 1950s which started the world believing that putting various chemicals onto soils (mainly NPK) would make plants grow fast. Food was short at the time, after the hiatus in farming of WWII, and those chemicals did indeed save the day, at the time.
But it took a while for scientists and farmers to realise that those same chemicals rendered nature’s multi-faceted workforce either less effective, or wiped whole colonies out altogether. So, while we got ‘quick grass’ we also wasted an awful lot of those chemicals, which moved from soil to water and produced the sort of freshwater pollution everyone is moaning about now. And it seemed to take more and more chemicals to achieve the same results as time went on.
Not just pollution, but time has proven that the nutritive percentages of our food plants have diminished by up to 38 per cent, and have led to an awful lot of people being basically undernourished and susceptible to a myriad of nasty diseases such as cancers and diabetes.
Arden refers to two types of farming these days. There is the ‘conventional’ mode which relies on nitrogen and potassium, but which leads to runoff, carbon loss, waste, disease, is degenerative and leads to dollar losses, and is based on pseudo-science.
And then there is the ‘sustainable’ mode which produces benefits such as calcium/carbon sequestration, is stable and efficient, recycles what it needs, is healthy, regenerative and profitable, and based on findings about soil and the workings of nature that science has come up with since the 1950s.
Miracle of photosynthesis
One of these is the small miracle of photosynthesis, where plants take in water and CO2 and make sugars. These not only provide energy for the plant, but pass it down to the roots and the ‘underground forces’, who pass their appreciation back up the line in the form of plant-available minerals, so necessary for growth.
Arden is a firm believer in the measurement of brix, where sugar levels are measured with a refractometer, and provide an estimate of fat, protein and carbohydrate levels in pasture etc. Trials have shown conventional pasture levels at about three, whereas sustainable pasture is around 12, meaning that animals need to eat less while producing more.
On the increasing use of herbicides and pesticides in farming, Arden produced a plethora of research studies which demonstrate that insects and diseases only attack plants which are not truly healthy, and which have low immunity levels. So, if a crop is attacked it means that there was something deficient in the plant which caused it to be susceptible to attack.
Overall, a day listening to Dr Arden Andersen is a heartening experience. There are ways we can improve our soils, our foods and our health, but we need to stop listening to the ‘green revolution’ chemical-based experts to achieve them. He has written a number of books, so try your library to find out for yourself.